The Indian Cricket governing body Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has taken an initiative to introduce ‘neutral’ venue system in India’s prime domestic tournament Ranji Trophy. The 83rd edition of the Ranji Trophy changed the scenario of domestic cricket. The ‘neutral’ venue system gave pitch curators full authority to prepare pitches as per their wish. With all the teams, playing away from home venue the sporting pitches have taken most of the team by surprise. The notion of a home advantage has been abolished from domestic cricket. Also Check- Ranji Trophy 2016-17 Points Table Also Read - Vakeel Saab Box Office Collection Day 2: Pawan Kalyan Starrer Beats Non-Baahubali Films, Mints Rs 11 Crore in AP And Telangana

The system has been laid out considering Indian players’ invincibility at home and nervousness on seaming and bouncy overseas condition. Indian often succumb to searing pace and bounce on overseas conditions, so BCCI wants to abolish the home advantage notion which over the years has spoiled Indian pacers’ intent to ball fast and helped batsmen to score heavily, but things have changed in 2016-17 season as the lively grassy pitches exposed the difference between genuine talent and mediocrity. Also Read - YS Sharmila, Andhra Pradesh CM Jagan Mohan Reddy's Sister to Launch Her Party in Telangana on July 8

The pipeline of India’s young talent producer Ranji Trophy has given a shock to them who feel comfortable playing on the low bouncy track. These batsmen are now complaining about the bounce and pace as their technique looks demanding. At the same time, many batsmen utilised the conditions, used their technique and feet to showcase flurry stroke play. Also Check- Ranji Trophy 2016-17 Complete Schedule Also Read - IPL 2021 Opening Ceremony Ahead of MI vs RCB: No Fireworks Amid COVID-19 Pandemic, BCCI Invites Differently-Abled Council to Launch T20 Tournament

In the seventh round of Ranji Trophy Bengal versus Baroda match ended in just two days at a grassy Lahli pitch in Haryana. 23 wickets fell in just one day. Bengal’s Ashok Dinda rattled the Baroda side for 97 runs as he took six wickets for 45 runs. In reply, Baroda’s Atit Sheth routed Bengal for 76 runs as he took seven wickets conceding just 36 runs. Baroda came on top on day two and won the match. Bengal coach Sairaj Bahutule termed the Lahli pitch as ‘underprepared’ while Captain Manoj Tiwari rued ‘uneven’ bounce. Remember this kind of pitch was common in West Indies and Australia when West Indies were invincible and formidable. Even a couple of years ago Australia’s Western Australia Cricket Association ground (WACA) used to be considered as a heaven of fast bowlers. Brisbane’s Gabba pitch still produces bounce while New Zealand and England pitches are known for seam bowling conditions.  So this kind of complaint is just baseless.

However, Bengal  have done a decent job over the time as they have lost only one match against Baroda, who are placed at second place from the bottom with three losses, two draws, and one victory. Bengal came back and fought hard against Uttar Pradesh after getting all out for 99 runs in the first innings.

Unknown neutral grounds like Bilaspur and Dhanbad also made headline because they have given shockers to many teams. At the Railways Stadium in Dhanbad, India coal capital has an anonymous presence in Indian cricket even though it hosted the state team Jharkhand. However, it takes now darker turn. Dhanbad came in news just for the wrong reason. The four-day match concluded in just two days with fifth-placed Goa defeated the Group C topper Andhra Pradesh by 34 runs. Goa batting first bowled out for 115 thanks to Bhargav Bhatt’s six wickets haul. In reply, Andhra Pradesh got off to a good start. They were once at 101 for 4, but their joy didn’t last long as left-arm spinner Shadab Jakati bamboozled them by taking eight wickets. The highest scorer of the match was Andhra Pradesh’s Srikar Bharat who scored 68.

However Andhra got 44 runs lead, Goa scored 276-run in their second innings and set a target of 232-run. Andhra Pradesh found the target massive at a challenging situation. Jakati added three more wickets to his 10 wickets tally while Rituraj Singh picked up four wickets and Amulaya Pandrekar took three. Andhra lost the match by 34 runs.

This edition has seen nine three-day finishes while the two-day finish has shown improvement. However, pitch like Eden Gardens and Lahli have given more favour to the bowlers. While Bengal coach Bahutule criticized the move, many coaches stressed the importance of the system. Saurashtra coach Sitanshu Kotak said, “As a cricketer, you are supposed to adapt, I don’t have any complaint”. He is a happy man since his team has the right balance between bat and ball. “Ideally you want the right balance between bat and ball- a track like Mohali where India and England played the third-Test. It would be difficult even for Mohali to prepare such a cricket pitch every time. But toss has proved to very important in a lot matches this season, which shouldn’t have been the case,” Kotak opined.

Contrary to the notion that seamers have been doing well spinner like Shahbaz Nadeem of Jharkhand has done a great job. K Manish, Jalaj Saxena and Akshay Wakahre and Nadeem featured in the list of most top five-wicket takers even the pitches are sporting.

Meanwhile, Rajasthan seamer Pankaj Singh tops the bowling list with 36 wickets in seven matches. But interestingly Jammu & Kashmir spinner Parvez Rasool features in top four of the bowling standing with 30 wickets in seven matches. The interesting thing is that Jammu & Kashmir have shown consistency despite their pre-season training spoiled owing to political disturbance.

Despite bowlers dominating this season batsmen like Rishav Pant, NR Saini, Rahul Singh Gahlaut, Sagun Kamat and Deepak Hooda blasted the bowlers.  These five batsmen have scored seven hundred-plus score. Among these batsmen, Delhi’s Rishav Pant is the most dangerous bloke. The hard-hitting wicketkeeper-batsman scored 874-run in six matches at an average of 97.11 and at a One-Day match like strike rate of 114.09.

While the new natural venue system has shown good improvement in domestic cricket, there is an objection against BCCI as they didn’t roll out a plan to commute the teams who are playing at remote places like Dhanbad and Bilaspur.  Long travelling before the match and after the match is an issue for many teams. Andhra coach Sanath Kumar complained about this, “BCCI shouldn’t go to smaller venues because the approach to the venues should be easier. Places like Dhanbad –we travel by train, then bus, now after playing here we will be travelling by bus to Ranchi and then Ranchi to Delhi by flight and then another flight from Delhi to Lucknow.” The long travelling without any rest is very tiresome for the players.  Disgusted Sanath said I have never travelled so much in my life for any Ranji trophy game.”